Saturday, January 17, 2015

Building Character in 2015

As often happens in the course of human events, 2014 was about as predictable as the time and place of the next meeting of the Galactic Federation of the Parallel Universe.

The New Year, 2015, is now upon us and we’re all along for the ride. The journey may be a pleasant one or a hundred miles an hour down a dead-end street, often depending on your point of view.

Although every year is the same duration, they actually seem to go faster as you grow older. When you’re ten years old, one year is ten percent of your life. When you’re fifty, one year is only two percent of your life -- thus, the illusion of faster time as you get older.

Every year, life seems to get easier and more complicated at the same time.

I can remember when my grandmother had an actual icebox on her back porch and a man would stop by every couple of weeks to deliver a huge block of ice. My grandmother lived in a large two-story house, in Wisconsin, and her only heat came from an oil furnace in her living room and a wood-burning stove in her kitchen. She had running water but no water heater. A Saturday night bath was a major project that included heating water on the wood-burning stove and toting it down the hall to the tub.

A hundred years ago, things were quite a bit different.

  • The United States of America had only 45 states. Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been admitted to the Union. Texas was a state but it was too late to do anything about it.

  • Life expectancy in the United States was 47 years. Pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhea were the three leading causes of death. Then as now, women were the leading cause of headaches.

  • The average wage in the United States was 22 cents per hour and the average worker made less than $400 per year. On the positive side, there was no income tax.

  • There were only 8,000 cars in the United States and less than 150 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed in most cities was 10 miles per hour. The only drag race was a foot race between transvestites.

  • Drive-by shootings were a major problem in Denver and other cities in the west. Apparently, teenage boys would gallop through town on horseback, randomly shooting pistols at whatever caught their fancy.

  • Only six percent of Americans graduated from high school. One in ten adults couldn’t read or write. These days, many more people graduate from high school but they don’t necessarily know how to read or write.

  • Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over-the-counter at corner drugstores. Coca-Cola contained cocaine instead of caffeine. Freedom of individual mind and body once actually existed before the government decided it had a right to control what mood we’re allowed to enjoy.

  • The closest thing to a computer was an accountant with ten fingers and ten toes, or a Chinaman with an abacus.

It’s hard to predict what the New Year has in store for us. The human race is a work in progress. We take two giant steps forward and a giant step backward. Whenever we get to a crossroad, we occasionally chose the wrong direction.

 Perhaps someday we’ll reach the Promised Land. Until then, the best we can do is to savor the journey.

May the New Year bring joy to all and Peace on Earth.

But if we must endure more hardship, that’s okay too -- after all, suffering builds character.

Quote for the Day -- “The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Bret Burquest is the author of 10 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a couple of dogs and where building character is a daily task

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